The Supreme Court Friday trashed the allegation that it does not hear ordinary citizens, saying it has been hearing the “voice of the nation” and individuals from Kashmir on the issue of abrogation of Article 370.
It was reacting to lawyer Mathews Nedumpara’s email to the top court in which he claimed the apex court has been hearing only constitution bench matters, which have no public interest involved, and not the cases of ordinary citizens.
“Mr. Nedumpara, I don’t want to join issue with you but secretary general has informed me of the email you have written to the Supreme Court in which you have said that the Supreme Court should not hear constitution bench matters and hear only non-constitution bench matters,” said the bench headed by Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud.
Nedumpara accepted he had written the email to the apex court and said by non-constitution bench matters he meant “cases of ordinary people”.
The CJI, while emphasising on the importance of constitution bench matters said, “I just wanted to tell you that you don’t seem to know what constitution bench matters are and you seem to be ignorant of the importance of constitution bench matters which often involve interpretation of the Constitution, which forms the foundation of the legal framework in India.”
He said, “You may think of Article 370 – that issue is not relevant. I don’t think this is what the government or the petitioners in that case feel. In the Article 370 matter, we heard groups of individuals and interveners who came and addressed us from the valley. So, we have been hearing the voice of the nation.”
The top court reserved its verdict on September 5 on a batch of pleas challenging the abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution which bestowed special status on the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, after 16 days of marathon hearing.
The matter came up after the top court refused to entertain a petition filed by a Micro Small and Medium Enterprise (MSME) firm for which Nedumpara was appearing. It refused to entertain the plea on the ground that the petitioner had not challenged it in the high court and instead approached the top court against the magistrate’s order.
Nedumpara, while leaving after the order was dictated, said the court should take care of small business enterprises, a remark which prompted CJI Chandrachud to question him about the email he had written to the top court.
The CJI told Nedumpara about a recent constitution bench matter the outcome of which will have an impact on the livelihood of numerous drivers across the country.
The top court was referring to a constitution bench matter it heard on September 13 in which it had asked the Centre if a change in the law that allows a person holding a driving licence for a light motor vehicle to legally drive a transport vehicle of a particular weight was warranted.
“All constitution bench matters are not necessarily interpretations of the Constitution. If you came and sat in our court the day before yesterday you would have found that we were dealing with a matter which concerned the livelihood of hundreds and thousands of drivers all across the country. The issue was whether a person who holds a licence to drive a light motor vehicle can drive a commercial vehicle,” the bench, also comprising Justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra, told Nedumpara.
CJI Chandrachud asked the lawyer to “disabuse his mind” that the apex court was “only dealing with some fancy constitution bench matters which have no bearing on the lives of ordinary people”.
After drawing flak from the court, Nedumpara said he salutes the court for doing good work of enabling virtual hearing which immensely benefited lawyers and litigants.
“I am not against the court hearing matters involving the fundamental rights of people. I am only against this court hearing matters of public interest behind the back of the people,” he said.
The bench said even this statement of his is wrong as people appear before the court in constitution bench matters through various intervention applications like it happened in the Article 370 matter.